Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Patrick Boland 1890-1962

Paddy Boland was born at Castletown, the Island in 1890. Boland’s mother Anne raised four sons on a small farm after the death of her husband. 

In October 1918, along with his brothers Michael and James, Boland physically resisted a police raid on the family home.  While his two siblings were imprisoned after court martial proceedings’, Patrick avoided arrest and spent late 1918 and early 1919 on the run .

Elected as a Sinn Féin councillor in 1920, in the same year he took part the demolition of the vacated RIC building at Ballycumber and the largescale IRA attack on Clara police barracks.

The rail system served as an important logistical resource during the War of Independence and was regularly targeted by the IRA.  Boland was in involved in several of the 13 attacks and hold ups on trains between Clara and Ballycumber carried out by the the 1st Battalion, Offaly No. II Brigade during the period.

Originally serving as a battalion quartermaster, he was promoted to brigade intelligence officer and was later appointed Brigade police officer. In this role he was involved in the dealing with a series of arson attacks at Endrim outside Ferbane. Republican  police under his command, also investigated robberies at Clara and oversaw the deportation to Liverpool of the suspected culprits. 

In the period between the signing of the Treaty and the outbreak of Civil War, a serious breakdown of order occurred across Ireland. The causes of these disturbances were multiple. In some cases, IRA men had begun to operate on a freelance basis for personal gain. In others, neighbours sought to settle long standing grudges. Simmering land disputes boiled over and a large amount of opportunist crime occurred.

This crime wave was compounded when the RIC were disbanded before a replacement force was created. Boland and a small group of untrained subordinates found themselves responsible for enforcing some kind of order over a large area. Arrests were made in relation to a serious home invasion and assault at Moystown House, threats to kill at Birr, cattle rustling at Kinnitty, robberies at Kilcormac, violent land agitation at Redwood and a failed bank robbery in Ferbane.

Boland opposed the Treaty and while he does not appear to have taken part in fighting during the Civil War, he continued to provide shelter and support to those that did. The Boland home served as a safe house/headquarters to anti-treaty brigadier Sean Robbins in late 1922 and early 1923.

Using his position as an elected official Boland condemned the Free State government’s execution policy stating…

‘The firing squads of Maxwell and MacCready not less detestable than the firing squads of Mulachy. Ambushing Free State troops by so called irregulars was bad but ambushing a few women at a protest meeting was worse. Those executions exceeded in vindictiveness all the executions since 1916 and were a travesty of law and justice.’ (1)

In February 1923 he served on the national executive of the Neutral IRA Men’s Association which called for a ceasefire. He was arrested the following month by the National Army who claimed he remained military active, a claim disputed by Offaly councillors.

Boland returned to political activity on his release from internment and went on to serve as county council chairman for 20 years. A founder member of Fianna Fáil, he was elected to Dail Eireann in 1927 and served as a back bench TD until 1954 despite bad health.

On his death in 1962, Nicholas Egan gave the graveside oration.

Speaking at a meeting in Mountmellick, the Fine Gael TD O.J. Flanagan described Boland as…

‘A man who had devoted his life to the service of the people and country, a shining example to other public representatives.’ (2)


1901 and 1911 Census. Search online at

Bureau of Military History Statements: Patrick Boland (Witness 1600). Sean Dockery (Witness 1711)  Search online at

Michael Byrne. The King’s County/ Offaly County Council election of June 1920: ‘remarkable, memorable and revolutionary’. Online at

Pat McLoughlin. ‘The Railwaymen: 1st Battalion, Offaly No. 2 Brigade the War of Independence and attacks on trains in the Ballycumber – Clara area.’ Online at

Phillip McConway. Offaly and the Civil War Executions. In Offaly Heritage 5 edited by Roy Masterson. (Tullamore) 2008.

Irish Press. 25 January 1938.

Kings County Chronicle/Leinster Reporter. 20 May 1922. 3 June 1922. 17 June 1922. 1 July 1922.

Nationalist and Leinster Times. 2 November 1918.

Offaly Independent. 16 June 1962.

Westmeath Independent. 9 June 1923.

(1) Kings County Chronicle/Leinster Reporter. 9 December 1922.

(2) Nationalist and Leinster Times. 16 June 1962.

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